Here is the transcript of this tape. We provide this transcript even though the interview is already in English for three reasons: 1) so you have the complete transcript also in written form to email to others, etc.; 2) so that the transcript in typed form is available to be translated into other languages by those who wish to share the text with people in other countries; 3) so that any expressions which seem unclear in the spoken video are clarified in the transcript. —RM
Transcript, Schneider Tape #6: God’s Permissive Will
Tape #6: God’s Permissive Will (c. 7:00 minutes long)
Bishop Schneider describes a private meeting with Pope Francis in March 2019 in which Schneider raised a question about the “permissive will” of God which the Pope answered
Robert Moynihan: You told me yesterday that you were with Pope Francis in a meeting with other bishops from the former Soviet Union, and you spoke at that meeting about the document of Abu Dhabi [“A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” February 4, 2019] which speaks of the different religions as “willed by God.” You spoke eloquently about how that was a delicate moment, and how Pope Francis answered you, and how you answered Pope Francis, and I thought it would be quite interesting if you could recreate what happened at that meeting…
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: Yes, because it was the ad limina visit of the region of Central Asia, bishops, one month after the Abu Dhabi document. (link)
Moynihan: So when was it [the meeting] exactly?
Bishop Schneider: It was in the beginning of March, 2019, and there was a very dangerous phrase in the Abu Dhabi document, which the Pope signed, and which is impossible for a Christian to maintain in such a formulation, I mean. It was formulated highly ambiguous, at least ambiguous, but erroneous.
Moynihan: So you are saying one phrase in that document is something you find erroneous and so you brought this up.
Bishop Schneider: Yes. This is, we already stated, that God wants the diversity of the sexes, diversity of nations, of people, languages, cultures, and in His wise Will He wants the diversity of these as enumerated simply and religions.
In the plural, religions.
So you cannot put at the same level the diversity of the human sexes, man and woman, that is the reality of the marriage created by God in his positive will or the diversity of nations at the same level to put the fact that God wills the diversity of the religions.
Moynihan: So what happened at the meeting?
Bishop Schneider: No, I am only concluding with this phrase now, because the diversity of religions, they are also included wrong religions, ideology adorations, and so on. And, this God can never want in the same way as He wants the diversity of the human sexes, of the two sexes.
But it is written in one phrase, in one, let us say, in one breath. And this is wrong. We cannot state these at the same level. We have to formulate it in another way.
And therefore, I ask the Holy Father at the beginning of the meeting. He was very kindly, fraternally. And said, he spoke about the document, he himself started to speak about the document of Abu Dhabi. And then he said to us, “You are free to express your opinion.”
And so, I expressed my opinion.
The Pope invited us and I said to him, “Most Holy Father, I am very concerned about this phrase, which now we mentioned, I quoted this same phrase of the Abu Dhabi document and I ask you to retract this phrase because it relativizes the uniqueness of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the only way, the only religion willed by God. I ask you to proclaim this to the entire world. And, if you will do this, the people of our time, our day, will be able to say, ‘Through the mouth of Francis spoke Peter.’” This was my short contribution.
And the Pope thanked me very kindly, friendly for this contribution.
And he answered that the diversity of the religions has to be understood as the permissive will of God.
So permissive will of God is an expression in theology which means that God in some way tolerates this situation but does not will it positively, directly, as several negative realities in human life and history are by God tolerated or permitted. For example, our sins, also. God permits this because he does not want to force our freedom. And so, this is the permissive will of God.
But then, I answered, I asked again, “But, Holy Father, the diversity of the human sexes, man and woman, is not the permissive will of God. Since this phrase is one phrase and enumerating only.”
And then, the Holy Father said, “Yes, this phrase could be misunderstood.” So, he answered me. And in the presence of the other bishops, “could be misunderstood.”
And here, again repeated, “But you can say to the people, ‘This is the permissive will of God.’”
I, again, ask him kindly, “Holy Father, please, do you this.”
And then, on April the 3rd, he spoke in a General Audience about the diversity of religions and he said, “The theologians explained this with the permissive will of God.”
At least, he spoke this publicly.
But I think it should be he could have more precisely explained this in the general audience what this means, the permissive will of God. And it would be good that he would have mentioned the document of Abu Dhabi, but he did not mention (it). He only spoke about the diversity of religions and the permissive will of God.
But at least he did this, and, for this, I am grateful to him.
But, I repeat, it was, to my opinion, not sufficient. It could be explained more clearly.
Moynihan: Well, thank you for that description of your meeting with the Pope, and your request for a very specific clarification.
Bishop Schneider: I want to add that, after this, the Holy Father was so kind, and he sent me a personal card, he was writing to me in Italian, Caro Fratello [“Dear Brother”], and so on, asking me to pray for him, and he put as an attachment in his letter a photocopy of his speech of this General Audience from April 3rd, and there, the word, in this photocopy, the words “permissive will of God” were underlined.
Moynihan: In his own hand…
Bishop Schneider: And so, at least, he sent me personally the photocopy of this speech, and with a nice card.
(End, Transcript, Tape #6; to be continued… Tape #7 will be posted at 12 noon on Wednesday, November 24, 2021)
An Important Essay by Bishop Schneider
“In his essay ‘The Church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles’ (‘Die Kirche aus Juden und Heiden‘) Erik Peterson, the well-known convert and exegete, long since (in 1933)… affirmed that one cannot reduce being a Christian (‘Christsein‘) to the natural order, in which the fruits of the redemption achieved by Jesus Christ would be generally imputed to every human being as a kind of heritage, solely because he would share human nature with the incarnated Word.” —Bishop Athanasius Schneider, in an important brief essay he published on February 8, 2019, nearly three years ago now, just after the publication of the Abu Dhabi document on universal human brotherhood
“Since the beginnings of the Church there was the assertion, as testified by Tertullian: ‘One is not born as a Christian, but one becomes a Christian’ (Apol., 18, 5). ” —Ibid.
“There would have been for instance no Christian France, no ‘Eldest Daughter of the Church,’ if Saint Remigius had said to Clovis, the King of the Francs: ‘Do not despise your pagan religion you have worshiped up to now, and worship now Christ, Whom you have persecuted up to now.’ The saintly bishop actually spoke differently, although in a rather rough way: ‘Worship what you burned, and burn what you have worshiped!’ True universal brotherhood can be only in Christ…” —Ibid.
Here is a supplementary text: an important essay that Bishop Schneider wrote on the matter of God’s permissive will and the uniqueness of Christ on February 8, 2019, just after the Abu Dhabi document was published on February 4, almost three years ago now…
The Gift of Filial Adoption
The Christian Faith: the only valid and the only God-willed religion
By Bishop Athanasius Schneider
February 8, 2019 (link)
The Truth of the filial adoption in Christ, which is intrinsically supernatural, constitutes the synthesis of the entire Divine Revelation. Being adopted by God as sons is always a gratuitous gift of grace, the most sublime gift of God to mankind.
One obtains it, however, only through a personal faith in Christ and through the reception of baptism, as the Lord himself taught: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3: 5-7).
In the past decades one often heard — even from the mouth of some representatives of the Church’s hierarchy — statements about the theory of “anonymous Christians.”
This theory says the following: The mission of the Church in the world would consist ultimately in raising the awareness that all men must have of their salvation in Christ and consequently of their filial adoption in Christ. Since, according to the same theory, every human being possesses already the sonship of God in the depth of his personality.
Yet, such a theory contradicts directly Divine Revelation, as Christ taught it and His Apostles and the Church over two thousand years always transmitted it unchangingly and without a shadow of a doubt.
In his essay “The Church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles” (Die Kirche aus Juden und Heiden) Erik Peterson, the well-known convert and exegete, long since (in 1933) warned against the danger of such a theory, when he affirmed that one cannot reduce being a Christian (“Christsein”) to the natural order, in which the fruits of the redemption achieved by Jesus Christ would be generally imputed to every human being as a kind of heritage, solely because he would share human nature with the incarnated Word.
However, filial adoption in Christ is not an automatic result, guaranteed through belonging to the human race.
Saint Athanasius (cf. Oratio contra Arianos II, 59) left us a simple and at the same time an apt explanation of the difference between the natural state of men as God’s creatures and the glory of being a son of God in Christ.
Saint Athanasius derives his explanation from the words of the holy Gospel according to John, that say: “He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1: 12-13). John uses the expression “they are born” to say that men become sons of God not by nature, but by adoption. This shows the love of God, that He Who is their creator becomes then through grace also their Father. This happens when, as the Apostle says, men receive in their hearts the Spirit of the Incarnated Son, Who cries in them: “Abba, Father!”
Saint Athanasius continues his explanation saying, that as created beings, men can become sons of God in no other manner than through faith and baptism, when they receive the Spirit of the natural and true Son of God. Precisely for that reason the Word became flesh, to make men capable of adoption as sons of God and of participation in the Divine nature.
Consequently, by nature God is not in the proper sense the Father of all human beings. Only if someone consciously accepts Christ and is baptized, will he be able to cry in truth: “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8: 15; Gal. 4: 6).
Since the beginnings of the Church there was the assertion, as testified by Tertullian: “One is not born as a Christian, but one becomes a Christian” (Apol., 18, 5).
And Saint Cyprian of Carthage formulated aptly this truth, saying: ‘He cannot have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother’” (De unit., 6).
The most urgent task of the Church in our time is to care about the change of the spiritual climate and about the spiritual migration, namely that the climate of non-belief in Jesus Christ, the climate of the rejection of the kingship of Christ, be changed into the climate of explicit faith in Jesus Christ, of the acceptance of His kingship, and that men may migrate from the misery of the spiritual slavery of unbelief into the happiness of being sons of God and from a life of sin into the state of sanctifying grace.
These are the migrants about whom we must care urgently.
Christianity is the only God-willed religion. Therefore, it can never be placed complementarily side by side with other religions.
Those would violate the truth of Divine Revelation, as it is unmistakably affirmed in the First Commandment of the Decalogue, who would assert that the diversity of religions is the will of God.
According to the will of Christ, faith in Him and in His Divine teaching must replace other religions, however not by force, but by loving persuasion, as expressed in the hymn of Lauds of the Feast of Christ the King: “Non Ille regna cladibus, non vi metuque subdidit: alto levatus stipite, amore traxit omnia” (“Not with sword, force and fear He subjects peoples, but lifted up on the Cross He lovingly draws all things to Himself”).
There is only one way to God, and this is Jesus Christ, for He Himself said: “I am the Way” (John 14: 6).
There is only one truth, and this is Jesus Christ, for He Himself said: “I am the Truth” (John 14: 6).
There is only one true supernatural life of the soul, and this is Jesus Christ, for He Himself said: “I am the Life” (John 14: 6).
The Incarnated Son of God taught that outside faith in Him there cannot be a true and God-pleasing religion: “I am the door. By me, if any man enters in, he shall be saved” (John 10: 9).
God commanded to all men, without exception, to hear His Son: “This is my most beloved Son; hear Him!” (Mk. 9: 7).
God did not say: “You can hear My Son or you can hear other founders of a religion, for it is My will that there are different religions.”
God has forbidden us to recognize the legitimacy of the religion of other gods: “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me” (Ex. 20: 3) and “What fellowship has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has the faithful with the unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Cor. 6: 14-16).
If other religions likewise corresponded to the will of God, there would not have been the Divine condemnation of the religion of the Golden Calf at the time of Moses (cf. Ex. 32: 4-20); then the Christians of today could unpunished cultivate the religion of a new Golden Calf, since all religions are, according to that theory, God-pleasing ways as well.
God gave the Apostles and through them the Church for all times the solemn order to instruct all nations and the followers of all religions in the only one true Faith, teaching them to observe all His Divine commandments and baptize them (cf. Mt. 28: 19-20).
Since the preaching of the Apostles and of the first Pope, the Apostle Saint Peter, the Church proclaimed always that there is salvation in no other name, i.e., in no other faith under heaven by which men must be saved, but in the Name and in the Faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 4: 12).
With the words of Saint Augustine the Church taught in all times: “The Christian religion is the only religion which possesses the universal way for the salvation of the soul; for except by this way, none can be saved. This is a kind of royal way, which alone leads to a kingdom which does not totter like all temporal dignities, but stands firm on eternal foundations.” (De civitate Dei, 10, 32, 1).
The following words of the great Pope Leo XIII testify the same unchanging teaching of the Magisterium in all times, when he affirmed: “The view that all religions are alike, is calculated to bring about the ruin of all forms of religion, and especially of the Catholic religion, which, as it is the only one that is true, cannot, without great injustice, be regarded as merely equal to other religions.” (Encyclical Humanum genus, n. 16)
In recent times the Magisterium presented substantially the same unchanging teaching in the Document Dominus Iesus (August 6, 2000), from which we quote the following relevant assertions:
Theological faith (the acceptance of the truth revealed by the One and Triune God) is often identified with belief in other religions, which is religious experience still in search of the absolute truth and still lacking assent to God who reveals himself. This is one of the reasons why the differences between Christianity and the other religions tend to be reduced at times to the point of disappearance.” (n. 7) “Those solutions that propose a salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ would be contrary to Christian and Catholic faith.” (n. 14) “Not infrequently it is proposed that theology should avoid the use of terms like “unicity”, “universality”, and “absoluteness”, which give the impression of excessive emphasis on the significance and value of the salvific event of Jesus Christ in relation to other religions. In reality, however, such language is simply being faithful to revelation” (n. 15) “It is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God.” (n. 21) “The faith rules it out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism “characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another’ (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 36). (n. 22)
The Apostles and the countless Christian martyrs of all times, especially those of the first three centuries, would have been spared martyrdom, if they had said: “The pagan religion and its worship is a way, which as well corresponds to the will of God.”
There would have been for instance no Christian France, no “Eldest Daughter of the Church,” if Saint Remigius had said to Clovis, the King of the Francs: “Do not despise your pagan religion you have worshiped up to now, and worship now Christ, Whom you have persecuted up to now.” The saintly bishop actually spoke differently, although in a rather rough way: “Worship what you burned, and burn what you have worshiped!”
True universal brotherhood can be only in Christ, and namely between baptized persons.
The full glory of God’s sons will be attained only in the beatific vision of God in heaven, as Holy Scripture teaches: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3: 1-2).
No authority on earth – not even the supreme authority of the Church – has the right to dispense people from other religions from the explicit Faith in Jesus Christ as the Incarnated Son of God and the only Savior of mankind with the assurance that the different religions as such are willed by God Himself.
Indelible – because written with the finger of God and crystal-clear in their meaning – remain, however, the words of the Son of God: “Whoever believes in the Son of God is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3: 18).
This truth was valid up to now in all Christian generations and will remain valid until the end of time, irrespective of the fact that some people in the Church of our so fickle, cowardly, sensationalist, and conformist time reinterpret this truth in a sense contrary to its evident wording, selling thereby this reinterpretation as continuity in the development of doctrine.
Outside the Christian Faith no other religion can be a true and God-willed way, since it is the explicit will of God, that all people believe in His Son: “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” (John 6: 40).
Outside the Christian Faith no other religion is able to transmit true supernatural life: “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17: 3).
February 8, 2019
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana